Monday, January 28, 2013

Jose Marti on the 160th anniversary of his birth

"Freedom can not be fruitful for the peoples who have their forehead stained in blood." - Jose Marti

"La libertad no puede ser fecunda para los pueblos que tienen la frente manchada de sangre." - Jose Marti  

José Julián Martí Pérez

He organized a war of independence, but did so without resorting to dehumanizing his adversary or appealing to hatred. He was also a fierce advocate for civil liberties and especially freedom of thought and expression. Today, January 28 marks 160 years since the day José Julián Martí Pérez was born.

Cubans of all ideological stripes claim him as their own, but objectively who has maintained the spirit of his words and ideas? There is a movement in Cuba that seeks to restore human rights and liberties using nonviolent means. There are courageous men and women who risk everything standing up to dictatorship and some of them have been killed in the process and their families targeted for reprisals.

Jose Marti wrote that "There is no forgiveness for acts of hatred. Daggers thrust in the name of liberty are thrust into liberty's heart." Following this statement to its logical conclusion leads us over a century later to:
"The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: ‘You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together.’" - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

"To love one's neighbor is also to love one's enemy. Although in reality that qualifier-'enemy' does not exist in my vocabulary. I recognize that I only have adversaries and I have acquired the capacity to love them because in this way we do away with violence, wrath, vengeance, hatred and substitute them with justice and forgiveness." - Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez (1999)

Both Oswaldo and Oscar embody the best of Jose Marti when they reject hatred and maintain their defiance to injustice while working towards both liberation and national reconciliation. 

José Martí also recognized the power of women in struggle observing that "The struggles waged by nations are weak only when they lack support in the hearts of their women. But when women are moved and lend help, when women, who are by nature calm and controlled, give encouragement and applause, when virtuous and knowledgeable women grace the endeavor with their sweet love, then it is invincible."

The Ladies in White have demonstrated this power and one of their founding leaders Laura Pollan spoke courageously about the stakes in the struggle stating in 2010"They can either kill us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens." She went on to continue in her defiance of tyranny declaring on September 24, 2011 that "We are going to continue. We are fighting for freedom and human rights.”

Gandhi, King, and Marti: Brothers in Thought

Finally, what of those who claim Jose Marti as theirs in word but in practice are the antithesis of all he stood for? Today, it was learned that one of the Ladies in White had been detained by officials of the Cuban dictatorship and sexually molested. Last year this same regime had threatened to rape her five year old and this mother went on hunger strike for 19 days to demand that her child's safety be guaranteed. 

Cuba's nonviolent civic movement is making a reality out of what José Martí saw as the necessary final struggle for a truly free people: "One revolution is still necessary: the one that will not end with the rule of its leader. It will be the revolution against revolutions, the uprising of all peaceable individuals, who will become soldiers for once so that neither they nor anyone else will ever have to be a soldier again."

In 1931, Mohandas Gandhi outlined how peaceable individuals could become soldiers because they were soldiers for peace using nonviolent means founded in discipline and truth to achieve real and lasting change through pure defiance without the element of violence in it. This meant in practice that Jose Marti's formulation of a "just and necessary war" had become obsolete because the same or better results could be obtained with nonviolent resistance therefore war is no longer just or necessary. The twentieth century and its bloody tide would demonstrate the failure of bloody wars when compared with the successes of nonviolent resistance both on a small and large scale.

In January of 1998 when the Free Cuba Foundation organized a conference titled Gandhi, King and Marti: Brothers and Thought some protested because Jose Marti had died in battle, but the organization argued at the time that his views prior to his death were evolving in a direction that would find broad agreement with Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

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